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Buckeyes vs Bobcats

Sibling Rivalry Weekend

It was a strange day the last time the Ohio Bobcats came to the Shoe in the “in state financial warm fuzzy” match up that ended up being more nauseating than anything.  Remember that day?  Beanie was out and the Buckeyes struggled mightily before dispatching the Bobcats 26-14 for Ohio State’s  800th all time victory.  What I remember most –  other than being scared shitless for a lot of the game that Boo Jackson, the shifty QB of the Bobcats would find a way to actually pull off the upset – is that our team looked so hapless in the game leading up to the first matchup with USC (we were down 7-6 at the half for crying out loud).  I can still here Mark May saying “… the Ohio Bobcats” over and over again on the post game show.  We should have known that a beat down was coming at the hands of USC with the lackluster performance of that day.
Oh how times have changed.  This year’s squad are not those Buckeyes to be sure.  First of all – our premier offensive weapon is not injured, and secondly – this team is just at a different level than the one before.  No disrespect intended to the former players – they are Buckeyes and I will always support them as such.  But looking back it is easy to see that the 2008 version of the Buckeyes had some significant holes – and the 2010 version does not, merely small chinks in an otherwise “swagger-worthy” team that was impressive in the big non conference matchup against the #12 ranked (at the time) Miami Hurricanes.  So really coming into this week I think it is less about the other team and more about the mental focus of the Buckeyes as they take on the Bobcats once again.

Ohio Notables:

–   The Bobcats had a good 2009 and ended up tied for the MAC Eastern Division title.  They made it to the Little Caesars Bowl where they lost to Marshall.

–   Head coach is Frank Solich, the former Nebraska head coach took over Ohio in 2005.  He has a career record of 33-32, including a 1-1 mark so far in 2010.

– The only recent contests between the two teams were a 40-16 tOSU victory in 1999, and the 26-14 Buckeye win in 2008.

– The Bobcat offense is not off to a great start,  have some injuries, only put on 158 yards on Toledo last week.  Overall they are 116th in the nation in total yards per game…out of 120.  That is even with veteran upperclassmen at several positions.  They especially struggle on third downs, which should make for an interesting day against one of the best front 7’s in the country.

–  Remember Boo Jackson (#8)?  He is still there but the past two years he was beaten out of the starting job .  Most recently by Bates (#5) who got hurt in the season opener.  So Boo is back in the Shoe.   Not much to worry as he has not been very good since 2008, the time spent this year highlighted by four picks in one and three quarter games with 34 yards on 22 carries.

– In the backfield is  #26 Davidson who is a senior that has never seen more than spot duty.  He has gone 92 yards on 29 carries in two games.  Backing him up is freshman #20 Boykin who had a bunch of yards as a senior in high school and had 9 carries for 61 yards in the opener but got no totes last week.  (YAWN)

–  At receiver are junior #15 Dunlop and two seniors #11 McCrae and #7 Brazill who both are explosive.  Brazil will also be the special teams threat which the coverage units will have to deal with.  Brazill led the team last year with 502 yards and 6 TDs but only 6 catches for 25 yards last week.  McCrae had 545 yards and 9 TDs last year.  Dunlop was injured last year but had 53 yards and a TD last week.  None are exceptionally physical specimens – Dunlop and Brazil are in the 6’ / 190 range and McCrae is 6’4’but only goes 198.

–  The line is younger with a three sophomores and two juniors.  All have started but much like the Canes all at different positions.   They are led by right tackle #78 Flading who was 3rd team All MAC last year.  The rest of the group has experience but has just not gotten it done this year.   The tight ends in the Bobcat offense spend the majority of time as a blocker so sophomore #88 Thompson may be considered another tackle, unless you count his one catch this season for 12 yards.

– The front seven on the Bobcat defense consists of six seniors and one junior.  Up front the run stoppers are #62 Williamson and #95 Hodge – both seniors and meaty going 340 and 292 respectively.  The seniors on the outside are #51 Notestine and #36 Gatling who both rely more on speed off the edge than power.  Gatling is currently third on the team in tackles (12) and Notestine led the team last season in sacks with 6.5.  At linebacker the story is 2009 MAC Defensive POY #47 Keller (senior) a high energy guy and team leader.  We will hear his name often as he makes a lot of plays from the middle spot.  #22 Ballard (SLB) and #30 Benjiman (WLB) are the other two – Ballard is a senior that is small at 5’11” / 193 and Benjiman is the only junior of the front seven who has the dubious task of replacing an All MAC player (Lee Renfro).

– The big story in the secondary is obviously the senior cornerback #9 Posey, the older brother of Buckeye receiver Devier Posey and has the ability to be the best corner in the MAC.  It should be an interesting matchup between siblings who both enjoy trash talking.  Already this week each has been quoted in the media as calling each other “ugly” and telling each other to “bring their A game”.  Should be fun.  The rest of the secondary is manned by #4 Leftwich at corner who is a junior JUCO transfer and #13 Moore (sophomore) joining #42 Jackson (senior) in the middle of the field as the safeties.  The real only factoid of value is that Moore recorded six picks last season.

This Bobcat offense is the first team that runs the option the Buckeyes will face since Ricky Dobbs and Navy last season.  I really doubt that matters due to the combination of the maturity that we have now and the fact that this is a group that has struggled to move the chains –  it is a bad time for them to come into the den of a beast like the Buckeye defense has become.  On defense OU just doesn’t have the horses to hang with the talent level of the Buckeyes.  Posey vs. Posey will make for a cool story line and sibling rivalry but unfortunately for the Bobcats we have other players that will create significant mismatches to exploit.
The big key for the Buckeyes is definitely focus – after a big win getting up to play a MAC school at home might be tough.  Fortunately for us there were enough things that were of the non-awesome type to hammer on this week to keep the killer instinct such as red zone efficiency and special teams coverage.  Rolle has said that the coverage units need to respect the role as another important play in the game which can’t be looked over.  And news of Boom being placed on coverage units is also interesting – probably because he seems to relish contact – which is a good thing.  Obviously the other key to this game is not getting anyone injured – with Barnett out for the year and Sweat still dinged up from the tussle with the Canes – it cannot be stressed enough to come out take care of business and put this team away quick.  Then get the starters out pronto.

Prediction:

Ohio State – 35

Ohio U – 13